The Warble

The Official Blog of Karen Ullo

In the Footsteps of Alix de Morainville: My Research Trip to France, Part 1

In the Footsteps of Alix de Morainville: My Research Trip to France, Part 1

As those of you who follow me on social media know by now, for several years I’ve been working on a historical fiction novel set during the French Revolution. The novel re-tells the story of Alix de Morainville, first introduced in George Washington Cable’s 1888 book Strange True Stories of Louisiana. The legend of Alix de Morainville holds that she was the daughter of a Norman count, raised in the tiny fishing village of Morainville, who later moved with her parents to the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at Versailles, and married her cousin, Vicomte Abner de Morainville. After her husband was killed during the French Revolution, she married her gardener, Joseph Carpentier, to lose her title and save her life. Then the two of them fled to Spanish-controlled Louisiana, into the wilderness of the Attakapas Territory, in modern-day St. Martin and St. Mary Parishes.

My novel, La Citoyenne, retells this story in a whole new way, taking both Alix and the reader on a journey through France in the last days of the ancien régime and the first years of the revolution. My recent trip to France took me to many of the settings of the novel so that I could experience some of Alix’s life first-hand.

First Stop: Versailles

This trip was supposed to happen last year, and my husband, Michael, was supposed to go with me. But, like most things in 2020, it got cancelled due to Covid. This time around, I went alone, but it was still Michael who planned the details.

One of the most difficult logistical challenges was to get inside the Royal Chapel, where several scenes in the novel are set. The chapel is closed to the general public and only accessible in one of two ways: you can go on a guided tour purchased through Versailles that takes place only at very specific times, in French, or you can attend a concert there. So, we planned the trip around a date when a concert was offered in the chapel, only to have it cancelled a few weeks before. The only possible way to get into the chapel was to purchase a tour that started mere hours after my flight landed and come straight from the airport.

So that’s what I did:

The Royal Chapel from upstairs

Gallery of the Royal Chapel

Tabernacle of the Royal Chapel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After dinner that evening, I also walked around the town of Versailles, which surrounds the palace, to see other sites related to the revolution.

 

Hotel des Menus Plaisirs, where the Estates General and later the National Assembly of 1789 met. It’s now a music school.

Another view of Hotel des Menus Plaisirs.

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The Queen’s Stables, now the appellate court

 

The next morning, I had arranged to meet a private, English-speaking tour guide at 9:00 am, but my alarm didn’t go off. Thanks to jetlag, I woke up at 11:25. If you ever go to Paris, hire Raphaelle Crevet. She waited for me.

The Salon des Nobles, where Alix de Morainville will be presented to the queen

 

 

 

The Oeil de Boeuf, an antechamber of the king’s apartments that plays a part in the novel

 

 

 

The reception room in the Petit Trianon, where Alix will play the harp for the queen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One particular point of interest for me, since Alix spends part of her life living in Versailles, was to get some idea what the apartments of the courtiers looked like, and how they lived. Unfortunately, most of those apartments were torn down in the 19th century after being vacant and neglected for decades. They’ve been transformed into things like offices, restaurants, and the Gallerie des Batailles. But I still got a lot of useful information from my guide.

The Gallerie des Batailles (The Gallery of Battles)

Also, even though my concert in the Royal Chapel was cancelled, I got to attend one in the Royal Opera instead:

The Royal Opera at Versailles

The Stage of the Royal Opera of Versailles

Upper Galleries of the Royal Opera

Orchestra of the Royal Opera

Ceiling of the Royal Opera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Making of Books: Crafting Catholic Literature for the 21st Century

On the Making of Books: Crafting Catholic Literature for the 21st Century

On Thursday, April 29, 2021, from 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM Eastern, I’ll be joining other Catholic authors and editors for a free online forum about Catholic literature in the 21st century. Sponsored by the Collegium Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and the St. Benedict Institute at Hope College, I’ll be joined on the panel by Vivian Dudro, Senior editor at Ignatius Press; Joshua Hren, founder and editor-in-chief of Wiseblood Books; and Suzanne Wolfe, author of four novels including The Confessions of X, which won the Christianity Today Book of the Year award, and moderator Bernardo Aparicio, founder and publisher of Dappled Things.

In recent years, Catholic fiction has experienced a literary revival.  How can we account for this rebirth of Catholic literature? Who or what is driving it? What kind of books are Catholic authors writing? What kind of market is there for this revival?  This panel brings together Catholic editors and authors to explore the promises and possibilities of contemporary Catholic fiction.

To find out more or to register, visit the event site here.

Cinder Allia… The Movie?

 

I am thrilled to announce that Believe Entertainment has purchased the film rights to Cinder Allia and will now begin fundraising for its eventual screen debut. When? In God’s timing, of course, which I don’t know any more than you do. But maybe someday, you’ll get to watch Allia de Camesbry save the world in technicolor!

Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman of Believe Entertainment have already established themselves as some of the premier Christian filmmakers of our day with films like God’s Not Dead and Unplanned. Now they’re looking to expand their repertoire into fantasy, and, as those of you who’ve read Cinder Allia already know, it’s a story made for film. Gorgeous settings, lots of action, war, intrigue, a crippled prince, a mysterious fairy godmother… Yes, of course I wrote it to become a movie someday. And now, it will have the opportunity.

If you didn’t already believe in fairy tales, hopefully you do now!

Cinder Allia has spent eight years living under her stepmother’s brutal thumb, wrongly punished for having caused her mother’s death. She lives for the day when the prince will grant her justice; but her fairy godmother shatters her hope with the news that the prince has died in battle. Allia escapes in search of her own happy ending, but her journey draws her into the turbulent waters of war and politics in a kingdom where the prince’s death has left chaos and division. Cinder Allia turns a traditional fairy tale upside down and weaves it into an epic filled with espionage, treason, magic, and romance. What happens when the damsel in distress must save not only herself, but her kingdom? What price is she willing to pay for justice? And can a woman who has lost her prince ever find true love? Surrounded by a cast that includes gallant knights, turncoat revolutionaries, a crippled prince who lives in hiding, a priest who is also a spy, and the man whose love Allia longs for most—her father—Cinder Allia is an unforgettable story about hope, courage, and the healing power of pain.

 

Announcing Chrism Press

Hello, Dear Readers! If I’ve been quiet for a while, it’s because I’ve been busy writing, but also launching an exciting new venture called Chrism Press!

Chrism Press is a brand-new imprint of WhiteFire Publishing dedicated to stories informed by Catholic and Orthodox Christianity that may not be able to find a home in either mainstream secular or Christian (Evangelical) presses. We are thrilled to announce that we are open to queries to adult and young adult fiction in all genres!
What is Chrism Press looking for? To quote our mission statement:
“Whether Christian themes are presented overtly, subtly, or symbolically, Chrism Press seeks Spirit-filled fiction in all genres. We are not afraid of darkness; we enjoy the strange and the weird, as well as humor, romance, adventure, and fun. We strongly believe that fiction should never be boring.”
The story behind Chrism Press dates back years, but the short version is that my friend and fellow editor, Rhonda Ortiz, and I have dreamed of “someday” opening our own publishing venture… and meanwhile Rhonda’s college friends, David and Roseanna White, wanted to expand their existing Christian press to include Catholic and Orthodox perspectives. So “someday” is now, and we couldn’t be more excited!
Please help us spread the word to both writers and readers who are interested in great stories told from Catholic and Orthodox perspectives!